D and M, grade 1 and 3 pupils of a school in Bakau and O, a pupil in a Kanifing comprehensive school, were said to have made savings from their school lunch money to fund their journey.
Speaking to The Standard with the expressed permission of their parents, D explained: “The whole scheme was the idea of O. He broached the idea of going ‘back way’. My little brother [M] and I told him okay we will go with him. So after saving for a while, one Friday afternoon, we left home [Bakau], went to Banjul and boarded a ferry. We then took a bus to Senegal which dropped us in Kaolack. We were in Kaolack for one day and the next day O’s uncle arrived and told us to return to The Gambia.
“He asked us who took us there and how we got to Kaolack. We explained to him that O convinced us that things were very hard in The Gambia and that if we wanted to live a better life, we should follow him to Italy. So, we decided to go. Along the way to Senegal, I told my little brother to return home because it could be a dangerous journey but he refused to listen to me.”
Recounting his episodic experiences, 8-year-old M narrated: “When we met O at the meeting place, ny brother wanted to send me back home but I insisted I must go along with them because I also wanted to help my family when I make it to Italy. Several people in Bakau saw us with our bags when we were leaving and asked us where we were going, and we told them we were headed for Brufut. We finally made it to Kaolack and spent the night with a woman we did not know before O’s uncle showed up the next day to bring us back home to The Gambia. I did not want to return to The Gambia. I wanted to go to Italy but I had no choice.”
Meanwhile, the mother of the two boys, FJ (name withhled), a farmer in Bakau, said of her children: “When I realised they were missing, I looked around everywhere in Bakau and could not find my sons. Then I went to the Bakau Police Station to report the matter. I told the officers at the station that I had not seen my children for the whole day. They promised to send out alerts and search for them. I later learned in town that my two children with their friend had set out for Italy.
“When they were brought back, I asked them what tempted them to attempt the journey and they answered it was all O’s idea who was having ‘a lot of money’ at the time. I told them that they had almost all they needed here at home so why attempt to go to ‘back way’? They said they wanted to go because a lot of people who went on the journey and reached Europe successfully are now building big, nice houses for their families. They wanted to do the same for me,” she said rather bemused by her little boys.
Meanwhile, the mother of O declined to proffer any comments on the matter.
All the three young boys have since returned to their various schools.]]>